Sunday, November 06, 2011

Stressful Singapore?

Has Singapore really become such a stressful place to live in?

The following are the news reports:
Nov 5: Body of a Chinese man was found in Bedok Reservoir on Saturday morning. This is the 6th body to be found in Bedok Reservoir since June this year.
Nov 2: A 26-year-old Vietnamese woman (Truong Thi Ngoh Anh) was found dead at the foot of a block in Woodlands early Wednesday morning, nearly 6 months after a corpse was discovered in a water tank of the same block. She is believed to have fallen to her death from the 6th story of block 686B Woodlands Street 73.
Oct 25: Body of a Chinese woman in her late 50s dressed in a red was found floating in Bedok Reservoir on Tuesday morning.
Oct 10: Body of a 33-year-old Indian construction worker was found in Bedok Reservoir on Monday morning.
Sep 22: The bodies of a 32-year-old young woman and her 3-year-old son (Tan Sze Sze and her son Jerald Chin Le Hui) were found by the shoreline of Bedok Reservoir on Thursday morning. Both were dressed in red.
Jun 20: The decomposed lower body of a 23-year-old Chinese national (Lin Xiao) was found in Bedok Reservoir.

If you're stressed, have desserts! As desserts are spelt the reverse of 'stressed’.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Don't you feel as if every now and then, life seems to get you down; and sometimes you feel as if you have hit rock bottom that you fear you'll never get out of it? Well at times like this, since it can't possibly get any worse, there's nothing to lose when you look on the bright side of life.

From the film Monty Python's Life of Brian, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle and this'll help things turn out for the best...

And...always look on the bright side of life ~whistle~
Always look on the light side of life ~whistle~


If life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you're feeling in the dumps, don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.

For life is quite absurd and death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin - give the audience a grin
Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow.

Life's a piece of shit, when you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
You'll see it's all a show, keep 'em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

(See also: Donkey)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happiness is...?

According to Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, in his Parliamentary speech, "happiness is an affordable first home for all newlyweds". Indeed, the high prices and difficulty in bidding for a HDB (Housing Development Board) apartment has delayed wedding plans or even setting up a family for several newlyweds in Singapore, which would inevitably affect the already low birth rate that we are experiencing.

Yet in a recent study called "The Happiness Report", it was found that Singaporeans most unhappy about insufficient savings with 46.5% of those polled reported a lack of sufficient savings in the last 6 months, especially prevalent among those aged between 30 and 44-years-old. The report also predicted this number to rise in view of stagnant wages, inflation and higher costs of living that may occur in the wake of a possible recession. Indeed the latest figures from the Department of Statistics show Singapore's inflation up 5.5% in September. Singapore's consumer price index (CPI) rose by 5.5% compared to a year ago, due to higher costs of accommodation, private road transport and food. The average working Singaporean gets an annual wage increase of about 3% and with bank savings interest rates at only about 0.05%, it can only mean real income is getting smaller for the average Singaporean.

I guess happiness means different things to different people at different times. So what is happiness to you now?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Opposition who?

For starters, my blog has always been non-political and will continue to be that way. It is just a blog for random thoughts and from time to time I also share the thoughts of those around me. Recently, the parliamentary speeches has been the hot topic in the pantry. Worth noting was the speech by MP for Aljunied GRC, Mr Chen Show Mao, who clarified the position of the opposition party was not to create division and quote "It is the intolerance of differences that will be divisive." In his speech, he also quoted from former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr George Yeo, "In a newspaper interview, former Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo related what a Roman Catholic cardinal told him about the late Pope John Paul the Second. The cardinal had drafted, “Even though we’re all different because we speak different languages, we are one”. The Pope corrected him. “No, it is not even though we’re different, we are one. It is because we are different, we are one.” Mr Yeo then said, “I thought that was so profound and beautiful. In my first speech to the United Nations, I repeated that story because in the UN, it is also because we are different that we are one. To be a human being is to be different."

Fellow MP for Aljunied GRC, Mr Low Thia Khiang, reinforced this idea in his speech and warned that "We should also be on guard against viewing trade-offs only from the Government’s perspective. We should always assess trade-offs from the people’s perspective, especially those who are severely affected by the policy." And also, "urge the PAP to step out of the shadow of the doom and gloom of certain pitfalls of western liberal democracy and work towards a First World Parliament in our own way."

While the above speeches by the Worker's Party (also known as the "opposition party") had drawn criticisms from ruling party (PAP) bench, there were those who were more positive like MP for Sengkang West, Dr Lam Pin Min, who in his speech sums it up by saying, "it is clear that all of us can agree on one fundamental tenet that we, as parliamentarians, will strive to make Singapore a better home for all Singaporeans" Indeed the ministers and members of parliament (MPs) should view themselves as serving the common good of all Singaporeans and not as separate political parties. Perhaps the term "opposition party" is partly the cause of the mis-perception that it is one that opposes the ruling government. But let's just say if the ruling party were to concede power to the other party, then won't that make the ruling party into the opposition party now?

Maybe it would be a good idea to just scrap using the term "opposition party" and just address a person by the appointment e.g. MP or call the party's name as it is when required. Unlike a school debate where there is a proposition team and an opposition team to a particular motion / topic, different parties will experience times when they have different opinions as well as times when they are in agreement on various issues that affect our nation - but the eventual objective of the discussion is to work towards creating a better Singapore for Singaporeans.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tweet

After much deliberation, I've decided to sign up for a Twitter account and this would be used to replace the Shoutbox which was originally on the right hand column of my blog. With Twitter, I would have the option of dropping short snippets of updates of my blog as well as some short random thoughts. You can follow me on Twitter via: http://twitter.com/zanmyblog

Also if you were wondering about the strange profile pictures, those are QR codes and you can use your smart mobile device to scan the codes of links to my blog quickly. I've also decided to remove the Flickr photostream from my blog. For feedback, you can always reply me via Twitter or post a comment to the blog posts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Public | Transport

There seems to be a disconnect between the public and the transport system in Singapore. Since my earlier blog entry about the transport woes in Singapore, where it was reported 26,600 passengers were affected in the Circle Line downtime, SMRT has repeatedly appeared in the news especially the past week, here's a quick compilation:

1. After 10 years, the Circle Line now fully opened on Oct 8 (Sat). However by Oct 13 (Thu), it was reported that unexpected demand creates human jams at Circle Line where higher-than-expected ridership during peak hours at the newly opened Circle Line caught train operator SMRT by surprise.

2. On Oct 13 (Thu), it was reported that Thai teen to ask SMRT for S$4m in compensation. Nitcharee Peneakchanasak who lost both her legs in a train accident at Ang Mo Kio MRT station in April will be asking SMRT for at least S$4 million in compensation.

3. 6,500 MRT commuters affected by train breakdown on Oct 14 (Fri) afternoon, resulting in a human jam at Tanjong Pagar MRT station, where fare gates had to be temporarily closed due to the platforms becoming congested with commuters unable to board a train.

4. Oct 18 (Tue), SMRT fined $200,000 for Bishan depot security breach for an incident that happened earlier this year on Aug 17, when graffiti was found on a northbound MRT train. SMRT had been previously fined $50,000 for a similar incident that took place in May 2010 at its Changi facility. The fine collected will be donated to the Public Transport Fund to help needy families with transport fares.

It is apparent from above that SMRT's service standards is appalling and has continually dropped. It seems that fines may not be the solution as it's possible that the burden of higher operating costs may be passed on to passengers in the form of higher fares. Being a public transport provider, which means there's practically no alternatives, it is no wonder that the people in Singapore are turning to the government to step in and clear up the mess.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Hot Air

It's the weekend already and just to share a joke from a professor who was teaching me:

There were once 3 CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) travelling in a hot air balloon and seemed to be lost. They saw a wise-looking man below and decided to ask him for directions, "Excuse me, could you tell us where are we?" The guy was a professor and he replied, "You are in a hot air balloon." The 3 CEOs were rather cheesed off with the response and one of them told him, "You must be a professor." And the professor looking pleasantly surprised, replied, "How did you know?" "What you said is correct, but not useful."

Now the professor was very cheesed and he said, "You must be CEOs." The 3 CEOs were very surprised that the professor could arrive at such an analysis and were curious, "How did you know?" "The only students I've taught who are so high up but don't where they are, are CEOs."

Thursday, October 06, 2011

A tribute to Steve Jobs

I don't claim to fan of Apple products but there's something about the visionary leadership of the founder & previous CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs. Steven Paul Jobs (family name following his adopted parents) who was born 24 February 1955 left this world on 5 October 2011 at age 56 after battling with pancreatic cancer, with the world mourning for him. There's probably a lot of tributes going around but here's a brief summary about this great man:

In the late 1970s, Steve Jobs with co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mike Markkula and others, designed, developed, and marketed one of the first commercially successful lines of personal computers, the Apple II series. In the early 1980s, Jobs was among the first to see the commercial potential of Xerox PARC's mouse-driven graphical user interface, which led to the creation of the Apple Lisa and, one year later, the Macintosh. However after losing a power struggle with the board of directors in 1985, Jobs left Apple and founded NeXT, a computer platform development company specializing in the higher-education and business markets. In 1986, he acquired the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm Ltd, which was spun off as Pixar Animation Studios, that made blockbuster computer animation movies like Toy Story. He remained CEO and majority shareholder at 50.1% until its acquisition by The Walt Disney Company in 2006, making Jobs Disney's largest individual shareholder at 7% and a member of Disney's Board of Directors. Apple's 1996 buyout of NeXT brought Jobs back to the company he co-founded, and he served as its interim CEO from 1997, then becoming permanent CEO from 2000 onwards, spearheading the creation of world-changing products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. To sum up his attitude, he once quoted ice hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been."

Below is his Stanford commencement address in 2005:


Farewell, Steve Jobs!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Donkey

I'm not sure if you've heard this story before but it might be worth sharing:

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbours to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realised what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quietened down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbours continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest well just by not stopping and never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Things to like about Singapore

There have been a lot of articles in the recent news on the unhappiness of Singaporeans; from the litterbug culture, to the stressful education system that our poor kids face, the rising divisiveness in our society, increasing number of doctors in bad practice, and of course, the transport woes in Singapore. Singapore is far from perfect. There are many things we can do better and the process of improvement always begin with recognising the problems.

Yet ask any Singaporean who has traveled extensively enough, there are many things to like about this little island we call home. One of the things that many Singaporeans may have taken for granted is the fixed price policy. Sure, there are those who love a good haggle and bargaining is in their blood, but after a while it can become tiring not knowing how to much to pay for a product or service; there are places you have to worry how much to pay for meal what with all the taxes and tips (which can become a touchy issue with the waiters); or not knowing how much to pay for taxi and having to do mental estimate of the distance before even getting to your destination; not knowing if have been ripped off paying for a counterfeit product. And that doesn't even begin to cover how in Singapore, service is expected to be prompt. I was once in Leonardo Da Vinci airport in Rome, waiting for a flight back to Singapore with a group of friends. We had about an hour to go and feeling a little peckish, we decided to order sandwiches and coffee. However, despite having no queues, the airport cafe staff took their own sweet time to prepare the food and by the time we got our order, we had less than 10 minutes to get to the boarding gate. Gentle reminders from my friend didn't help at all. In Singapore, there are ample manned paying counters and transactions are a breeze.

Many people feel that the system in Singapore is too rigid but look at it from another angle, there is a sense of certainty in our society right from the way our country is governed down to the fixed price policy and the expectation of prompt service.